Wake Magazine Volume 17: Issue 5
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22 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
in Published Writing Tags: Adventure, Africa, Blue Rock Cable Park, Byerly Wakeboards, Hyperlite, Liquid Force, outdoors, Published Article, South Africa, Stoke City Cable Park, Wakeboard, Wakeskate, Warm Baths Cable Park
07 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
Malawi has become my second home. I venture over at least every six months now. And every visit is different. Some times I’ll spend all of my time at one project or orphanage and other times, I will go to several different villages, projects, orphanages, etc. I’ll sit through meetings, miss other meetings due to good old “Malawian time”, or get distracted by one thing or another, because there is always so much to see and do.
Earlier this year I spent 10 days touring around visiting projects and villages. It was a rewarding and incredibly positive experience, especially seeing programs I had heard about or read about in action.
20 Mar 2013 Leave a Comment
If you’re the kind of traveller that loves a good backpackers party then you can’t go past Tofo. With gorgeous sandy beaches, surf, scuba diving, and a bunch of other fun activities on offer it is a backpackers Mecca. But it’s once the sun starts to dip beneath the hills that the real activities of Tofo unfold.
Dj’s, bands and plenty of drinking, plus chances are that Tofo is the place you will run into every other traveller you’ve met in Mozambique. If you’ve had enough of small fishing villages and getting to hang out with the locals then Tofo is also a good stop over. It has definitely been taken over by the tourism bug. You’ll get charged more for everything here, alcohol, souvenirs, accommodation, and the locals are not quite as friendly to deal with as other destinations in Mozambique. The influence of the Western world is visible here in locals capitalizing on the tourism industry, and so they should. There is money and job opportunities to be had and it should be locals benefiting from this.
If you are after a relaxing travel experience where you can immerse yourself in the culture with the locals of Mozambique, then Tofo is not the ideal location. But for a good time with plenty of sun, beach, and backpackers then Tofo is it.
05 Feb 2013 Leave a Comment
For Christmas 2012, my Dad and I decided to road trip through Mozambique. Our first destination was Vilankulo, a 14 hour drive from the South African border crossing of Komatipoort, and the coastal town gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago.
Vilankulo was the highlight of our 10 day Mozambique road trip. Compared to other towns it was less touristy, the weather was perfect with bright sunny days and cool breezes, and the locals were super friendly. A day trip out to Bazaruto Island and Benguerra Island is a must. With crystal turquoise water, soft white sand, and miles of sand dunes, beach and coral to explore, it is a spectacular trip. The snorkelling at 2 mile reef is ok. But, having grown up in the Whitsundays, I am a little hard to please when it comes to snorkelling spots now days. They have to be pretty amazing (full of schools of fish, turtles, large coral reef shelves and an abundance of marine life hiding in amongst the coral) to impress me.
Baobab Beach Backpackers is a little run down, but what it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in personality and atmosphere. Christmas Day the kitchen put on a roast dinner and our Mozam family gathered to feast on the usual Christmas delights, minus the usual family fun-filled squabbles or stress of presents. For Dinner later on, members of my new-found international family, bartered for some fresh calamari and reef fish, for a Christmas night Braai. So regardless of being thousands of kilometres from home, we still stuffed out selves silly for the day.
Located 3-4 houses up the road from the entrance to the Backpackers is a dress makers. For around $10 USD you can have a custom-made dress, top, skirt whipped up in a matter of hours. Head down to the market in town where there is a decent selection of cheap local fabric to choose from, before heading back out to the dress makers to get measured for your outfit. While making alterations to my finalised dress we were invited to join in with the families Christmas celebrations.
The friendliness of the people in Vilankulo is what made this place so special. No where else in Mozambique were we able to interact and hang out with the locals in such a relaxed way. In Vilankulo it wasn’t all about trying to make a buck off the tourists, instead trying to overcome language barriers to learn a little about each other’s way of life and enjoy a few laughs, while relaxing in tropical paradise.
14 Dec 2012 2 Comments
Volunteering overseas or at home is not a decision to be taken lightly. When you agree to volunteer, especially overseas, you accept responsibility to share your skills and help improve the quality of life for those less fortunate than yourself. The romantic notion of sweeping in to a small village or school and completely changing their world for the better in one week is, well, slightly unrealistic.
The reality of volunteering in a foreign country is that it is hard work. It takes time for you to adjust to the culture and way of life, the food, the lack of first world technologies, the language, and even the malaria medication. But it’s not to say you won’t have an amazing experience. There are just a few things you should consider before making the decision or heading off somewhere to volunteer…
1. What skills do I have?
Remember volunteering is about you helping someone else. It’s not just an activity undertaken so you can tell everyone that you volunteer, or to make you feel good about yourself. Volunteering is about sharing skills and knowledge with locals to build their capacity. In other words, when you leave, you leave a new skill set with the people so that they can continue on the work you started with them. This can be in the form of agricultural and farming best practices, teaching techniques that fit with the countries curriculum, or computing skills that assist people to effectively word process for business or education. When you finish your time volunteering, the aim is that you will have taught someone a new skill, that they can then teach to others (and therefore build the capacity of more local people).
2. Don’t make assumptions
Cultural differences, language translations, and many more factors can make for some confusing communications. Don’t assume that the rural village you are volunteering in has the same standards and expectations that are set in your home country. Particularly when it comes to living and education standards, what is appropriate behaviour guidance (discipline) at home may not be the same where you are volunteering. Speak to the teachers, elders, or leaders where you are volunteering to find out more about what is normal practice.
3. Be respectful
You are visiting another country, and most likely another culture. Find out what kind of clothes you should wear while volunteering. It is embarrassing for you and could be disrespectful to the locals to rock up in short shorts, when the knees are not to be seen, etc. By dressing in an appropriate way it will help to build a relationship between yourself and the locals you are working with, as they will see that you respect them and their culture.
4. Plan ahead
Don’t turn up unprepared. It could ruin your time volunteering and leave you feeling negative about the whole experience and place. Take resources with you, as you don’t know what they will (or won’t) have available to use. Take your malaria tablets at night, before going to bed. If you are going to have a reaction to them, it will kick in about 30-60 minutes after taking the tablet. If you can fall asleep before you start to feel dizzy, nausea, or headaches, you can by-pass the worst part of the reaction. Take water purifying resources, as a back up to bottled water.
5. Volunteering doesn’t end when you leave
Just because your time is up doesn’t mean you can’t continue participating and being involved in the project. Ask about what you can do to help from home. Are there resources you can collect to send over? Can you spread the word to others about your experience and encourage them to help or volunteer? Could you organise a fundraiser or start a charity in your home town? The possibilities are endless and only limited by you. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, even small things like sending (post or email) new teaching ideas/techniques, as a follow-up from something you did while volunteering, can be helpful. And they continue to build capacity in the local community, which is the end goal of a volunteer’s visit.
08 Dec 2012 Leave a Comment
On the corner of Juta St, downtown Johannesburg, smoke wafts out of concrete pillars of the first floor car park. A few metres up the side street and people pour in and out of an alley way, laughing, chatting excitedly while slurping on exotic coloured fruit juices. We follow the stream of people up into the first level of the car park to discover the Neighbourgoods Market. An entire level of food. African, Australian, Italian, seafood, wine, cakes, breads, juices, beers, frozen margarita’s, and more.
Salivating over the food on offer, we head upstairs to the second level and out into the sun. Tables, surrounded by people enjoying the Saturday sunshine, good food and a few cold brews, crowd the concrete platform. Undercover and a bar, more tables, and clothes stalls fill up the space.
It’s the place to be on a Saturday. So I know where I’m going to be next Saturday for lunch…
04 Sep 2012 Leave a Comment
* This is the start of an extended piece I’m working on about my experiences in Malawi.
“Allendo. Linda, office,” she said. Her scrawny arm bending in and out as she pointed wildly. As if it would speed up my walk.
“Yeh, I know. I’m meeting Linda at the office,” I said. I wasn’t meeting Linda for the administration staff photo until 2.00pm. But this was Malawi, and it ran on its own time. Friday at 2.00pm, could mean anywhere from 7.00pm Friday through to 10.00am in a months time. Malawi time means anytime it happens.
I rounded the corner of the hall. Linda, with her short stature, tightly wound braids, and ample bosom was trying to run towards me in a pair of wedge-heeled sandals while avoiding tree roots, rocks and potholes in the dirt.
“Emma, I have been looking everywhere for you. Come, Let’s go,” she said. Turning back in the direction of the office, her pace slowed, while her back heaved as she gulped in air.
Linda led me up the path, but turned left to Agogo’s house, instead of right to the office.
Agogo, or grandparent in Chichewa (the main language of Malawi), founded Home of Hope, a children’s home in Mchinji, Malawi. It’s a village currently home to 490 children, and provides schooling and two meals a day to another 100 children through an outreach program.
Every so often, Agogo would call me for an unexpected meeting. It was a chance for him to talk about the needs of Home of Hope, ask how my stay was going, and talk further about my plans for setting up a charity in Australia. But following Linda into the lounge room in his house, I found Agogo, his wife, and an older woman cradling a bundle of blankets on her lap. Two men sat at a table, behind the lounge chairs.
“Ah Aunty Emma, come in please. I want you to meet Baby Emma.” Agogo said, reaching out a hand to point towards the blankets. “I feel that it is important for you to see how people bring their children to Home of Hope looking for help. It is one of the many challenges we face everyday, as we can not always provide all of the help required.”
Tucked inside the thick bright blue blanket, and brown and yellow patterned chitenje on the older woman’s lap, poked a tiny baby’s face. Baby Emma. A crotched yellow beanie loosely covered the top of her head. Little lips pursed together, her tiny nostrils barely flared in and out as she breathed, eyes closed peacefully as she lay, wrapped warm and secure.
I sat beside Linda on the remaining lounge chairs. Tears welled up as Agogo began sharing baby Emma’s story. She was 12 days old. Her mother had died one hour after giving birth. The family could not afford to buy formula to feed the baby, instead trying to feed her with cow’s milk from a cow in a nearby village.
He was interrupted by a knock at the door. The three other volunteers at Home of Hope shuffled in and quickly found a place to sit.
Agogo continued, “This is a challenge faced by Home of Hope. A family brings their child here after the death of a parent. With Baby Emma, we are unable to take her, as we already have many young babies being cared for by the mother’s. We are able to provide Baby Emma with formula though. The family then only has to come back once a month to collect more formula, as it is a long way for them to travel.”
“Agogo, what would you need to be able to keep Baby Emma at Home of Hope?” I asked.
“For a little baby like this, she would need more attention from a caregiver, so we would need another house-mother.” Agogo said.
I looked to Ann, a regular volunteer at the orphanage and my sounding board for every crazy idea I had in this place. “What if the baby came to stay with us at the house for a few days? Just until a house-mother could be found?” I whispered beneath the Chichewa conversations taking place across the lounge room.
“Yeh. That could work. Where are they going to get a house-mother from?” Ann said.
“Yes, Aunty Emma.”
“How much does it cost for a house-mother?”
“It is 12000 Malawi Kwacha per month.”
Ann and I bowed our heads to calculate the currency conversion in whispers.
“I could somehow afford $40 US a month.”
“Agogo, if I pay for a house-mother can Emma stay here? She can live in the house with us until you can organise someone over the weekend.”
“Aunty Emma we are truly blessed to have you as a friend of Home of Hope. God has provided through you to help this needy child.” Agogo said.
Chichewa conversations flew across the room. Many zikomos, or thank you’s, were said, and then we prayed. Thanking God for his hand in what had occurred, for my likeness to Moses or Pharaoh or some other person in the bible’s sister who cared for a lost and needy child, and for a whole list of things we had to be thankful to God for. I don’t remember the details of it. I was concentrating on holding back tears, as I looked at the precious little baby in the bright blue blanket.
“Amen.” The room chorused.
“Now let us go find some clothes for your new baby.” Linda said, taking my hand and leading me out of the lounge room.
The first 24 hours had passed without incident. Baby Emma, after some coaxing, squirting a 5mL syringe into her mouth, had begun to drink the powdered formula. Swapping to the bottle not long after. She took little drinks. 10mL here, 25mL there, so on her first full night in the house with us, I’d estimated that we had plenty of formula to last through her feeds.
At midnight, she finished off her bottle.
New to this mothering business, I’d neglected to bring her tin of formula from the caregiver’s house. Emma would not last the next six hours without a feed.
Wrapping my new little baby up in an extra blanket and slipping into my Ugg boots, we set off from the guesthouse to trek 400 metres across the village. Baby Emma swaddled tightly in one arm, her bottle hanging from a plastic bag around my wrist, and my iPhone torch app glowing in the darkness to light up the rocks and pot-holes along the way.
A growl seeped out of the darkness behind me. A few steps later and two more growls joined somewhere to my right. I froze.
The dogs that lay around all day, actually went on guard at night, and now me, my new baby, and iPhone torch-light were standing in the middle of the dark village, at least 100 metres from the nearest house.
I took another step. Several sets of paws moved closer. One dog barked.
I shone my light around, but they were just outside its reach.
Don’t be scared, Emma, just keep walking and they will leave you alone.
Several dogs started barking, while more were running out from the midnight black surrounds, to add their voice to the chorus of growls.
“No!” I yelled, setting off at a brisk pace towards where I thought the house was. “No! No. No.” I growled back at the dogs.
Surely someone would hear the dogs and come out to see what was happening. Or maybe they’d hear my attempts to frighten the dogs away. I kept walking towards the doorway I could make out in the light thrown from the porch, a little way out in front of me.
I felt like I was drunk, trying to walk in a direct, purposeful line to my destination, but tripping and stumbling over rocks, potholes and tree roots in the shadows of my torch-light. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or run at this point. My arm was shaking, loosening Baby Emma’s blankets.
Stepping over a drain pipe, the dogs stayed just beyond the trees surrounding the village, still growling, but not moving towards us anymore. I’d crossed some invisible line that the dogs wouldn’t cross. A few more steps and they still stayed where they were. I ran. Straight to the doorway, never have I been so glad to arrive inside the house, as I was at that moment, I knocked quickly, but opened the door without waiting for a reply.
The house-mother, fast asleep, jumped up out of bed. Somewhat startled by my sudden appearance in her room, but seemingly understanding that I needed another bottle of formula, as she fetched the tin and thermos of hot water from under her bed, before I had time to remove the empty bottle from the plastic bag still dangling from my wrist.
The house-mother prepared a bottle for us and I asked her how to shoo the dogs away. She smiled and handed me some more cloth nappies, then went and climbed back into bed.
From the doorway, all I could see was darkness mixed with shadows, and the light of my front porch 400 metres away. I looked around, desperate for another person to emerge and rescue me.
I was failing at this mother business.
With no one in sight, I tucked Baby Emma in closer to me, took a deep breath and set out into the dark. I walked as close to the house as possible, before going across the village and running the last few steps towards a house with the TV blaring. I knocked loudly.
“Shinghai, hello? It’s Emma.” I called.
The door opened and a young boy stood inside.
“The dogs are following Baby Emma and I and I’m worried about them biting us, cause they’re growling. How do I make them go away, I don’t know what Chichewa words to use to make them stop?” I said.
The boy came out onto the porch he looked out to where the dogs stood a few metres away.
“Come, let’s go,” he said, leading me down the front steps.
There was a knock at the door, before it squeaked open.
“Good morning,” my sister Sarah said, “I’ve made you some breakfast.” She placed a bowl on the chair beside my bed.
“Thanks,” I said, groggily shifting to look inside the pile of blankets beside me. She was still sound asleep.
“I did run out of formula last night,” I said, then rehashed my midnight adventure and the dogs.
“I did ask if you would have enough formula for the night,” Sarah said.
“Well, I grossly miscalculated how much she would drink, based on her previous feeds. Lesson learnt ok? I’m going to pick up the tin of formula today.”
“Some girls already dropped it over this morning, along with a few sets of clean clothes.” Sarah said. “Do you want me to take her for a bit so you can have a little bit of a sleep or eat your breakfast, before we have to go to church?”
I nodded, extremely grateful to have a moment to sleep. Between the midnight run for formula, the six dirty nappies during the night, and waking up in a panic at every noise Baby Emma made, I was exhausted. Worse than the noise was the silence. My heart leapt, certain that she’d stopped breathing or I’d smothered her in her sleep.
I changed her nappy, adding the dirty one to the pile in the plastic bag on the floor.
Wrapped in her chitenje and blankets, sound asleep, I passed Baby Emma out from under the mosquito net.
I lay staring at the ceiling, eyes heavy, but thoughts raced around my head, keeping me awake. It was Sunday, so a day of rest and church. Except Baby Emma had gone through all but one of her cloth nappies, even using the extras we’d picked up the night before, which meant I needed to wash them all, before we ran out completely. She needed a bath and clean clothes for church, and I had to be at church early to take photographs of the children in their Sunday best, dirt free and where possible, in shoes.
I slowly rolled out under the mosquito netting and sat on the chair eating my breakfast. I could always catch up on sleep later.
Malawi is close to the Equator, but in June and July, chilled southerly winds sweep across the dry, dusty plains. Baby Emma cried every time I changed her nappy. It didn’t matter how much I rubbed my hands together before touching her skin, they were still icy cold on her tiny little body.
So when it came to bath time, she screamed the house down.
Her twig like frog legs kicked out, as she desperately tried to push away from the water. She arched her back and twisted her head, all the while her high pitch cry echoed off the concrete floor and walls of the bedroom. The laundry wash bucket was big enough to fit her small limbs and pot belly, and I squatted beside the bucket with her cradled in one arm. Sarah looked on with a video camera over my shoulder.
I had only ever bathed older babies, babies that can sit and hold their heads up. Holding my squirming baby with only one forearm running the length of her spine, my thin little wrists balancing her unstable neck, and round little head in the palm of my hand, I felt awkward. That at any moment she would kick out those skinny frogs legs and topple into the bucket of water.
Somehow, I managed to wash all of her.
“That was the longest baby bath in the history of the world,” Sarah said.
“Hey, new mother remember. I’m learning as I go.”
The day before, one of the villager’s had ridden a bicycle into the nearest Boma, market, to buy talcum powder, cloth nappies and pins, and waterproof nappy covers, since all we had for Emma were over sized jumpsuits and towels cut up with a razor into nappy size pieces.
Dry and naked wriggling around on the towel on the bed, Baby Emma had stopped crying. Her curiosity turned to the piles of clothes and folded nappies stacked around her. I tipped the talcum powder upside down and with a flick of my wrist, out puffed enough powder to cover her entire body. Her stomach resembled a marshmallow, white, round, and soft to touch. No matter how much I rubbed the powder in, spreading it around into her armpits, along her shoulders, onto her bottom and legs, I couldn’t get rid of the white.
“Whoops, that was a bit too much. Silly mummy, but at least now your skin will be lovely and soft,” I cooed.
Dressed in her last clean nappy, two newborn jumpsuits that were twice the size of her and wrapped in two fresh blankets, Baby Emma was ready for her first Sunday church visit.
I left her on the bed, in between two pillows to stare at the ceiling, mosquito net and anything else in sight, while I took the bag of nappies out to the front yard. Everything in this place takes far longer to do, than at home. There wasn’t a washing machine I could just stuff her nappies into, press a button, and 30 minutes later clean nappies were left in the machine to hang out.
I filled the saucepan as high as I could in the little sink then emptied it into the laundry bucket on the ground below. To get enough water in the three laundry buckets I had to fill the saucepan at least 10 times per bucket. Then there was the large pot on the stove heating some water to also add.
I carried each bucket out the front onto the grass, emptying the dirty nappies from the plastic bag into one of the buckets. Scrubbing yellow stains out of white cloth with a bar of Nu-clean laundry soap, the absurdity of the situation hit me. Here I was living in a place where the power went out on a regular basis. If I wanted clean drinking water, I had to boil it then add purification tablets to it. If there was washing to do, it was all done by hand. There were no mirrors in the house, so I couldn’t see how I looked after my sleepless night, and frankly, I didn’t care. I didn’t care, because there was a tiny baby, warm and comfortable in my bed. She had a full belly and clean body that was growing stronger with each feed. I would stay awake in the middle of the night listening to her breathing, happy in the knowledge that she was still alive, when she had arrived a few day’s earlier so close to death.
Knuckles red from scrubbing, I wrung out the nappy and dropped it in the next bucket to rinse the soap out. A little boy, walking past on the road, called out and waved. I waved back and called out a hello.
A cry escaped from the inside of the house.
Shaking the soap off my hands, I wiped them dry on my skirt and went inside to my baby.
25 Aug 2012 3 Comments
South Africa usually invokes images of sweeping savannah bushveld, the ‘Big 5’, or on a political front, Nelson Mandela. But, South Africa is a country made up of much more than the wild life or violent past of apartheid. It’s a landscape steeped in history that is entwined with the spectacular views. The Panorama Route, nestled in the North East of the country, is a 285 km drive starting from the Western side of Kruger National Park, near the Orpen Gate and ending in the town of Sabie. It’s a drive that showcases dramatic scenery. From colourful mineral rich mountains, to waterfalls plunging from pool to pool, and valleys developed from the shifting fault lines over time, pushing the land higher into the sky.
Taking a tourist drive anywhere in Africa has never been high on my to-do list. African roads are generally appalling, nothing more than oversized sidewalks scattered with crater-like potholes. The South African government, along with the local communities on the route, have injected money into maintaining the roads, as well as facilities and services in a bid to entice local and international travellers to their stunning part of the world.
Standing on the edge of the rock plateau, I look out over the sweeping vista of the Blyde River Canyon and Three Rondavels (named for their resemblance to the traditional South African thatched roof hut). I can’t help but pause and wonder at the beauty before me, hidden so thoroughly from sight on the winding drive up through the range only moments ago.
Following on from the Blyde River Canyon, is the tourist stop of Bourke’s Luck Potholes. And there are a lot of tourists, with an information centre on the history of the area, monkeys running through the Braai (BBQ) and picnic area, and local handicraft stalls. The stallholders are friendly and happy to barter over prices of carved wooden or stone animals, beaded jewellery, fabrics, and prints.
There is one more stop to make, before my growling stomach announces it’s time to head to Graskop for a feed. Another panoramic view from the Wander View free lookout spot, or God’s Window, around the corner, with a tourist fee to enter. Both provide spectacular views across the ranges, perfect for posing in front of the camera for that, “I’m on top of the world” kind of photo.
Graskop is a bustling little town made for tourism. I’m thinking with my stomach though. So it’s straight to Harrie’s Pancakes, an institution in South Africa. In peak season, you have to ring and book a table in advance, due to the residents of Johannesburg escaping the city on a weekend getaway, and all going to Harrie’s to eat.
I’ve ordered the banana and cinnamon filled pancake with ice cream. Next door, is Chocolate, Shautany Chocolatiers, a decadent indulgence for my sweet tooth and an entrée to my pancake main. I test out the Macadamia covered Belgian chocolates, tempted by the nuts grown locally alongside the Panorama Route in the multitude of orchards. My pancake arrives, ice cream oozing onto the plate, and for a moment I can’t decide which is better: The food or the scenery I’ve driven through so far?
The Panorama Route well and truly lived up to its name.
11 Aug 2012 Leave a Comment
in Published Writing Tags: Adventure, Africa, Australia, Beach, Bikinis, Body Art, Durban, durban south africa, friends, inonit magazine, Liquid Force, Skateboarding, South Africa, Spearfishing, Wakeboard, Wakeskate
It’s here!! The first mini issue has arrived of Inonit Magazine, packed with features, stories and some awesome photographs of people out and about getting in on it.
Click here to go to the online Magazine link. Download for better reading.
Also check out the Inonit Mag website for a little taste of Durban, South Africa